How did ThemeForest become the red headed stepchild of the WordPress community?

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Last year at WordCamp Chicago 2009, I mentioned to some attendees (no, more like exalted) how a marketplace like ThemeForest had enabled me to create a web development business without the overhead of hiring a staff or spending dozens of hours creating custom themes for my clients. I even demoed a few sites I completed using these marketplace themes, including my own blog. Those fairly new to WordPress took great interest in my claims of these “beautiful and unique themes for under $25”, while other attendees…well, they, not so much.

What will always stick in my head about that WordCamp was how the developers there scoffed at my usage of ThemeForest. One developer even whispered to me, “don’t say that around Brian [Gardner]”. To this day I can’t understand how buying themes from ThemeForest became such a dirty proposition. What made this service so poorly regarded compared to buying themes from StudioPress, WooThemes or any other of the big WordPress development companies?

I think this question is especially apt with the impending launch of Theme Garden, from Jason Schuller. Jason also runs one of these big development companies, Press75.com, so do I think Jason’s marketplace will receive the same kind of cold shoulder his competition has received? Absolutely not! Because of this, I’d like to compare ThemeForest, Theme Garden and a few other services to try to figure out what really makes ThemeForest the red-headed stepchild of the WordPress community.

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